All the talk in San Francisco this offseason revolves around the 49ers' strong candidacy as the NFC West favorite. Between Kurt Warner's departure from Arizona and the rebuilding efforts going on in St. Louis and Seattle, the 49ers appear poised to capture the crown in the NFC's weakest division. An aspect that has not been heavily discussed is whether or not the 49ers are equipped to handle success. After so many years of losing, are the 49ers ready to handle the pressure that comes along with winning?

According to pundits and fans alike, the 49ers' success will depend on quarterback Alex Smith. Smith has his fair share of supporters as well as detractors, and there are valid arguments on both sides of the table. Yet even the harshest of critics has to admit that there's never been a better time for him to succeed. He has been provided with ample weapons, two powerful rookie offensive linemen and, in case you haven't heard, this is the first time in his career that he's had the same offensive coordinator for two consecutive seasons. So the first question is: can he make progress and be an effective starter? The second question is: what happens if he starts winning? Is he mature enough and experienced enough to continue winning games, or will the fire burn out should San Francisco get off to a hot start?

The same can be said for Mike Singletary. Much like Smith, Samurai Mike does not bring a wealth of experience to the table. One would like to think that Singletary is the type of person that would keep himself and his team grounded in victory and defeat, but that may not be the case. Although the team continued to play hard throughout the season last year, an argument could be made that they didn't show up when it counted (see Seattle, Week 12). If it was difficult to keep the team hungry when the playoffs were within reach last year, would any of that change this season?

This topic recalls the story of the 2009 Denver Broncos. After kicking Jay Cutler out of town, rookie head coach Josh McDaniels got the Broncos off to a miraculous 6-0 start heading into the bye week. That streak included victories against Cincinnati, New England, Dallas and San Diego, all 2009 playoff teams. After a week off, Denver lost four straight and would eventually go 2-8 in their final 10 games. No team should miss the postseason after going undefeated in its first six games. What caught up to Denver was inexperience. They were an unseasoned team on the field and on the sidelines. One could argue that the Broncos' dearth of talent caught up with them, but when a squad beats four eventual playoff teams, it's difficult to say they aren't talented.

To be fair though, the 49ers appear to have a much more talented team on their hands, but at the same time, Denver had the advantage of being labeled a loser before the season even began. The 49ers will not be afforded the same courtesy thanks to preseason hype. How will Singletary and company react if they put together a similar streak? After all, the team's longest winning streak since 2001 stands at just three games. The most recent time that occurred was in 2006, when the Niners won three straight against the Vikings, Lions and Seahawks to improve to 5-5. The good news is that Alex Smith was at the helm during that three game stint. The bad news is that they followed it up losing four of their last six games.

The bottom line is that the 49ers do have a genuine opportunity to be successful this season. Truth be told, it's the strongest chance they've had in eight years. The problem is that they lack veterans with playoff resumes. What's more alarming is that they also lack players with just the experience of winning several games. It will be a true test of Mike Singletary's capacity as a head coach if he can take a team that is so used to losing, and keep them focused and calm if victories begin to mount. In what is quite possibly the NFL's worst division, the 49ers have only one team that can stand in their way to a division title... the 49ers.